It was so near and yet so far for Ghana’s Black Stars and also a case of history repeating itself as they lost to what seems to be their nemesis, the Ivory Coast by 8-9 after penalty shootouts at the Stade de Bata in Equatorial Guinea on Sunday.
What started very calmly for the Ghanaians seems to have ended with lots of pressure and a huge disappointment and understandably lots of tears. It also meant the great divide between the silver and the gold medals. As early as the sixth minute, they enjoyed a sustained spell of possession which showed a lot of vision and pace in the middle of the park. This, however ended badly as Mensah disappointingly attempted a screamer from the centre circle, which trickled for a goal kick without much threat to the Ivorian goalie who had come out of semi retirement for the tournament. In the eighteenth minute, they were at it again as they attacked from the left through Atsu but just as he was about to deliver his cross, Auriel came in with a perfectly timed tackle to hand his side a sigh of relief.
Ivory Coast’s Serey Die was handed the yellow card after a senseless challenge on Ghana’s Atsu. In 57th minute, while waiting for a free kick to be taken two opposition players were getting too touchy touchy for each other’s liking and in the end brushed foreheads and the Ivorian went down. The referee, however did not take action apart from a verbal admonition. The match continued.
Play continued to swing from one end to the other but nothing came off it all. Extra time came and went as well but there was nothing much to write home about. When, after the thirty minutes of extra time the teams started to make frantic substitutions, that was the signal for the beginning of the drama. The likes of Asamoah Gyan for Ghana and Gervinho for Ivory Coast were taken out just before the penalties were started. It was a bad start for Ivory Coast, who missed their first two penalties while Ghana converted theirs. It was only a case of the Ghanaians converting the third and hoping that their opponents miss one more, then the prestigious trophy would have been theirs. However, they allowed the Elephants to catch up and push the contest into sudden death. The penalties went on until all the infield players had taken their penalties and it was left to the goalkeepers. The Ivorian goalkeeper became an instant hero after he saved his counterpart’s penalty and went on to save their take.
Ivory Coast won the Africa Cup of Nations Soccer Final by 9-8 in an almost exact replica of the final that pitted the two in the same final in 1992.